(republished by request)
But of course, it really isn't -- winter's only just begun. The Winter Solstice is the 21st of December which marks the shortest day of our year in the Northern Hemisphere, and we think of it as "winter." But winter actually still lies ahead. Right now the ground is warm enough from summer that the snow and ice melt quickly, but if we look forward to January and February, that warmth will be dissipated and the cold will grip our land.
Since our earth is tilted on its axis, the sun's rays strike our northern hemisphere at an angle, and this we call "winter time" as demonstrated in the drawing above. I've often imagined prehistoric people huddled in a cave with whatever they could find to build a fire and animal skins for warmth (have you ever tried such a skin!).
But we modern folks are assured that spring will return. And I also think of the people who figured all this out -- I'm glad they did!
Our wondrous Sandhill Cranes will return to us on their spring migration, the barren 'dobes will display the brilliant yellows of Prince's Plume and the rich reds of the cactus, the 'Dobe daisy will bloom and the green leaves of the cottonwoods will dance in the breeze. The high country will turn from wintry white to the glorious colors of mountain meadows filled with wildflowers.
There are mid-winter or solstice celebrations throughout the world. For a fascinating trip just Google "Mid-winter Celebrations." There's the five day Tibetan "Dosmuche." A pole is erected and everyone dresses up in scary costumes to frighten the evil spirits away from the coming new year. The pole is destroyed on the final day. Or there's the ancient Druid celebration of the sun. It was called the "Yule" and still occurs in modern times with the Wiccans celebrations. There's the night of the Radish celebrated in Oaxaca, Mexico and many, many more. So ...
Merry Solstice and a Prosperous New Year.